Possible legal loophole identified

BELINDA FEEK
Last updated 15:18 02/07/2014

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A possible legal loophole may have contributed to the death of Frankton woman Diane White, who was bludgeoned to death by her mentally ill neighbour, Christine Morris.

Coroner Peter Ryan picked up on the possible loophole today at the Hamilton inquest into White's death on January 19, 2010.

It came as he questioned a worker from Waikato Hospital's mental health facility, Henry Bennett Centre.

The coroner asked the staff member, who has name suppression, why he had been unable to immediately admit his mentally ill patient, Christine Morris, on January 19. That day she scaled a fence and went on to kill White with a hammer in her Blackburn St home.

Because Morris was a voluntary patient, staff couldn't restrain her and stop her from leaving. To do so staff would have had to fill out paperwork and get her admission confirmed by a consultant, the staff member said.

The coroner asked the worker if he considered this situation to be a loophole, to which he replied: "Yes, I do."

The coroner then asked if any changes had been proposed or made since White's death.

"The HBC applies the law," the worker said. "I am not aware that any changes have been proposed."

The coroner told the worker he would "seriously consider" a recommendation having heard his evidence.

The worker was called back to give evidence this morning to clarify several points made yesterday by Morris' former carer and unofficial translator, Christine Christiansen.

Christiansen had said she felt the worker didn't listen during a meeting on January 19 and had told him Morris needed to be admitted as "she is going to do it".

She was supposedly referring to the possibility of Morris absconding and killing White.

The worker denied Christiansen had said that.

"She didn't say that. Moreover, I had no plans to discharge Morris."

Christiansen had not immediately left the interview room to chase Morris. Instead, Christiansen stayed with him in the room for up to seven minutes.

The worker added that they were told of Morris' escape over the fence by a nurse who came into the room.

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- Waikato Times

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